When you think of ways to have fun, hanging out in an Alaskan gravel pit on a rainy Tuesday evening probably wouldn’t feature high on most people’s list, but three members of Willow CERT had a great time doing just that as part of a training session for local emergency services.
Our Emergency Service personnel continuously refresh and update the skills that enable them to mount operations in some of the world’s most challenging conditions. The rugged terrain here means that steep-incline rescues are not uncommon but they can be difficult and hazardous and require hours of special training, first in the classroom and then in the field, where they put the theory into practice. For that, they need willing victims – and that’s where we came in.
First stop was moulage, where the borough’s emergency services training co-coordinator, Bill Mackreth daubed us with make-up that was definitely more Mad Max than Max Factor, to produce an array of gruesome and very convincing injuries. Kathy Watkins’ midriff was heavily bruised: the result of serious internal injuries. Talon Boeve had a splendid compound fracture protruding from a torn and bloodied trouser leg and I got off rather lightly with facial lacerations.
Then we took up our positions in the vehicles that had been placed in the gravel pit to simulate a two-car collision and a four-wheeler RV, which had all gone off the road and down a steep slope of around thirty feet.
Once the rescue vehicles arrived on scene, they first lowered a paramedic to triage the casualties and then set about slowly and carefully extracting the most urgent cases and securing them on stretchers. It was a difficult process made more arduous by the rain and the loose gravel that constantly gave way under foot .Our rescuers were clearly having to exert a great deal of physical effort to get the patients to the top, whilst still ensuring their own safety and that of their crew.
I overheard one of the trainers repeating the golden rule of any rescue attempt – Remember – It’s not your emergency !
Afterwards, there was a very welcome cup of hot chocolate and a de-briefing , where the general feeling was that the exercise had been very successful and that everyone had learned a lot.
From the point of view of CERT, taking part in something like this has much to recommend it. Not only is it a good way to refresh your memory about personal and team safety, triage and first aid, it’s also a good way to see how we could usefully employ our time if we arrive on scene before the emergency services and how we could be of assistance once they do. Time spent around the emergency services, becoming more familiar with their procedures, jargon and equipment means we will be better equipped to deal with a real situation.
On the way home, we stopped in at a garage for refreshments, forgetting that we still had our moulage on and we had to reassure the cashier that we hadn’t really been hurt. I think Bill can take that as a compliment !